Dear White People

To my white friends, family, and followers:

I am white. Therefore, I am privileged. Therefore, I am racist. And, to all the white people reading this: so are you. Now, take a deep breath, and hear me out.

Disclaimer: I am not sharing this to get an applause or to attempt to prove that I am a good person. This is just a tiny result of the work that I have been doing silently for the past few days. I’ll be the first to admit that I am disgustingly late to the game, and I am ashamed. Nevertheless, I feel called to share because I am a writer. I am an artist. These are my gifts. I feel called to share my experience so that my fellow white people can begin to do the work on themselves along with me so that we can begin to dismantle the racist society in which we live. This is not brave. This is necessary. It starts with us.

I’m going to be honest here, but I will warn you that my truth isn’t tied up in a nice, neat, little bow for social media. Not this time. It’s messy. It’s ugly. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing, and it’s hard as fuck to share. I am terrified. I’ve always been terrified of speaking my mind, but I’ve stood on the sidelines watching for far too long. It’s time to stand up for what I believe in and sacrifice my pride and my comfort to do the right thing. To use my privilege for good. Not for myself, but for the movement. Black Lives Matter. It’s that simple. But the world isn’t behaving in a way that supports that fact. And as white people, it’s far past the time to do something about it.

First of all, as I’m sure many of you can relate, my white guilt surrounding the current racial conversations happening throughout the country and the globe has led to me expanding my privileged white world by seeking Black women and men to follow and by using my small social media platform to make my stance on this matter clear. By listening to all the call-to-actions on social media and doing my best to check all the boxes laid out in front of me. As a people pleaser, a perfectionist and someone who can’t stand when people don’t like me, I will admit that part of me was reposting Black Lives Matter content so that I could “do the right thing.” So I could be “good.” So Black people would see that I am on their side. I believe in my heart that I had/have the right intentions. But there was still a part of me that was in some way seeking validation for the actions I was taking. I was making it about ME. As if the reposting and the sharing and the following could somehow lessen the overwhelming guilt and shame inside of me. I know that it’s not that simple, and this is something that I am committed to fighting within myself daily. Honestly, in all areas of my life, I am working to fight this performative undertone in all of the actions that I take. I also know that intentions don’t mean shit when they aren’t followed up with CONTINUED action. Real action. Difficult, deep, prolonged action. So through self-reflection, honesty, journaling, reading, learning, and alone time with myself, I am working through that need to please, that need to be validated, so that I can move forward clearly and concisely. So that I can do the work to make my actions match my intentions. So that I can work to become a true ally. Not just today, or this week, but for the rest of my life. Not to stroke my ego, but to play a part in making a change for the Black people who have literally sacrificed their hard work, their blood, their sweat, their tears, their dreams, their LIVES to make my life as a white person comfortable.

In my attempt to “diversify my social media feed,” I have discovered some incredible artists, writers, wellness advocates, and more. Sophia Roe is one of them. Before I go any further, I want to thank Sophia for encouraging her white followers to call ourselves out. To call out our racist behaviors, whether conscious or subconscious. She has spoken and written about what it means to be Black in this country, and what white people need to be doing, what we should have been doing all along, to attempt to set things straight. She had absolutely no obligation to share her time, her energy, or her wisdom in this way, but she did it anyway. I am grateful. She has created the space for me to take a good, hard look at myself, at my inherent racism, and at my previous and present actions or lack of action. So, thank you, Sophia.

Personally, I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to really look at my behavior, to really look at my life, and examine all the ways I have perpetuated racism. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t my intention. What matters is the impact that I, as a white person, have had on Black people and people of color. The shame and guilt that I am feeling is valid. The way my ancestors and white people today have treated and continue to treat Black people and people of color is NOT OKAY. It has never been okay. It never will be okay. Feeling guilty and ashamed is natural. So, if you are feeling these things too (I hope you are), you are not alone. And honestly, feeling like shit is the least we can do. I am not saying that you are a bad person, but if you are white, then you are privileged. If you are white in America, then you have benefitted from our racist system. We need to use these feelings of guilt to force ourselves out of the comfort that whiteness has provided us and TAKE ACTION. Because change must happen. We have let our privilege keep us silent for way too long. I don’t know about you, but I am done being silent. I am done allowing my white skin to keep me comfortable when there are human beings DYING at the hands of the system that brings me that comfort. If that idea makes you sick… good. Me too. It should.

Because we’re white and we’ve been raised in a racist society, naturally we have absorbed some of that racism. And naturally, on occasion, we have acted from that place. More than we probably have ever known. And we are so fucking privileged that we haven’t even had to think about most of this. The system is working to our advantage, so it’s an option for us to be blind to the hate that surrounds us. But Black people don’t have that privilege. They don’t have that option. They think about this every moment of every day of their lives because they have to. Because they are Black. Because their skin color means that they do not feel safe or welcome in this country. And not because of a system that is separate from us. Black people feel this way because of us. Because of our ancestors. Because of the white people that make up that system. I know that it’s not easy to swallow. It’s fucking awful, and it feels terrible. But it’s true, and it’s way overdue for us to hold ourselves and each other accountable. Because as awful as this work feels, it pales in comparison to the pain that Black people feel every day in this country because of us.

I am white, and I am privileged. Yes, I’ve had my struggles. I’ve not gotten everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and there have been times that I’ve felt unsafe in this world. But I am still privileged. Because I have never struggled simply due to the color of my skin. I’ve never been denied something I’ve desired, something I’ve deserved or something I’ve been OWED, simply due to the color of my skin. And while I have felt unsafe as a woman in my life, as a white woman in this country, my life has never been in danger simply due to the color of my skin. My life matters to the country at large, because I am a white woman. The same is not true for Black women. Black women die every day at the hands of racism, and we don’t even hear about it.

I am privileged because in most spaces that I occupy, I look around and see that most of the other people in that space look like me. I am privileged because when I watch films and TV, most of the actors look like me. I’ve never had to live in a world where I felt like I didn’t belong or wasn’t wanted simply because of the skin I was born with.

I am privileged to have thought growing up that racism was over because slavery was “over.” I grew up in a town with very little diversity. Looking around, I only saw white people with white problems. I didn’t see racism, so I didn’t know it to be a problem. That is privilege.

I am lucky enough to have been raised by a mother who taught me that everyone deserves love and kindness. I was not taught hate for any group of people. Yet, growing up in a place with such a lack of diversity, there WAS a lot of hate. There was a lot of ignorance. And yes, there was a lot of racism. Looking back on that white little girl who was sheltered from all the ugliness of the world due to my white privilege, I thought I hadn’t been exposed to racism. But of course I was. And I wasn’t just exposed to it, I perpetuated it! All those times I didn’t speak up when a family member or friend or acquaintance or colleague made a racist remark, I allowed racism to exist in my space. Just because I didn’t like what they were saying and I wasn’t speaking those things personally does not mean I wasn’t perpetuating that hate. All those times I was extra friendly to Black people because I was worried they would think I was racist, I was being racist. All those times I would buy into a stereotype I heard, I was being racist. All those times I talked with my friends about wanting to marry a Black man and make beautiful little mixed-race babies, I was being racist. All those times I made comments to my friends about a Black actor “not sounding Black,” I was being racist. And these examples are just scratching the surface.

I’ve been learning a lot about what racism really looks like. If you didn’t consider any of the examples given above to be racist, then I encourage you to do some learning, too. Racism does not always look like outward hate. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t feeding the monster. Do your research. Learn. Listen to Black stories and experiences. Accept criticism for your own actions and lack of action and promise to do better. Talk to your family and friends about whiteness and the harm it causes. Talk about the difference between intention and impact. Have the conversations that make you sick to your stomach because they need to be had. Stand up for what’s right, even if you are afraid. And always, always, always remember that to do this work, to have these conversations, to CHOOSE to become an ally – this is PRIVILEGE. Black people don’t have this privilege. This is their LIFE. And Black people have been out there doing the work. They’ve been putting their time, their energy and their lives on the line to fight for their right to exist FOR DECADES and beyond. But white privilege, white supremacy and racism are not Black people problems. They are white people problems, and it’s about fucking time we, as white people, solve them.

I don’t know the right way to do this. I don’t always know the right thing to say or do, and I will absolutely continue to make mistakes along the way. I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes in this piece of writing alone. But I am so tired of being afraid of standing up. I’m tired of being afraid of people being mad at me or not liking me or disagreeing with me. THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME. This is about using my privileged voice to do something. Whatever it is that I can do. If I do it wrong, and I get called out, of course it’s going to suck. It’ll be uncomfortable. But it will provide me the opportunity to learn and to move forward with that knowledge so that I can be better. So that I can DO better. I will continue to show up. I will continue to take a deep dive into my white reflection in the mirror so that I can see the whole, privileged, ugly truth. So that I can finally begin to dismantle the racism that existed in my DNA long before I even arrived on this planet. So if you want to join in this fight (and I believe it is our duty as white people to do so), then don’t worry about being wrong. Because I can tell you one thing for sure: being silent is certainly not right. I would rather try to do something to help and be wrong than to be too afraid to do anything at all. Because that’s a whole new level of wrong.

I am white. I am privileged. And I am committed to doing the work to be anti-racist. Are you?

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Pittsburgh, PA 

© 2019 by Tranquil Fern, LLC

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